CyberAlert -- 02/09/2001 -- CBS's Anti-Tax Cut Crusade

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CBS's Anti-Tax Cut Crusade; Conservative = "Controversial"; CBS Rationalized Clinton's Pardon: Other Presidents Have Done the Same

1) Thursday night CBS's John Roberts furthered the anti-tax cut spin by using raw cash amounts to show how Bush's cut benefits the rich, but ABC's Terry Moran offered a balanced recitation of both dollar figures and percentage cuts to illustrate how the middle class will get a far bigger cut than the wealthy.

2) Dan Rather castigated Bush for how he "again talked down the U.S. economy" in order to justify his tax cut, but minutes later Rather reported how declining retail sales demonstrate the economy is "unquestionably slowing at least some."

3) "The last time a Republican Governor rode into Washington from the West promising to cut taxes before sun up, it caused a bloodbath of red ink that lasted for nearly 20 years."

4) NBC's Today found a man who doesn't want a tax cut and instead wants more money spent on new transfer programs, such as for prescription drugs.

5) If liberals oppose it then it must be "controversial," even if the public backs it. Network reporters keep referring to tax cuts, school vouchers and federal funding of faith-based charities as "controversial" proposals.

6) CBS's Eric Engberg came to Bill Clinton's defense on Marc Rich without differentiating between pardons for political allies and for a fugitive: "Bill Clinton is far from being the first President to clean off the slate of someone in a legal jam who's got powerful political connections."

7) Nancy Reagan pointed out to CNN's Larry King how she and her husband were very different than the Clinton in receiving gifts, though the media don't note the differences when Clinton defenders claim the Reagans did the same thing years earlier.

Correction: "Carpet," not "cabinet." Letterman's "Top Ten Things Overheard During the Gore/Clinton Fight," as run in the February 8 CyberAlert, listed this for #6: "If there were an unstained place on the cabinet, I'd wrestle you there." As the MRC's Rich Noyes noticed, while that is how it appeared on the Late Show Web page from which I cut and pasted the list, on the air Letterman read it more logically as: "If there were an unstained place on the carpet, I'd wrestle you there."


CBS's John Roberts on Thursday night furthered the liberal anti-tax cut propaganda by using raw cash amounts to show how Bush's tax cut benefits the rich, but ABC's Terry Moran provided a balanced recitation of both dollar figures and percentage cuts to illustrate how the middle class will receive a far bigger cut than the wealthy.

Roberts opened his story, which led the February 8 CBS Evening News, by showing how "President Bush sent his tax cut plan to Capitol Hill today, accompanied by a final urgent pitch." After a soundbite from Bush, Roberts followed the liberal playbook in describing its impact:
"Under the phased plan submitted today a single earner making $32,000 would get back just $60 in the first year but $500 in the fifth. A married couple with just under $57,000 income: $120 in the first year, moving up to $600. A two-earner household with two children making about $60,000, $391 in the first year, almost $2,000 when phased in. And a married couple with no children making $950,000 would get back almost $9,000 in the first year, more than $43,000 in the fifth."

Roberts did not cite a source for his numbers and no source appeared in the on-screen graphic.

Roberts moved on to the Democratic attack, the main argument of which he had just relayed in the guise of a straight forward summation of the tax cut's affect: "Smiling Republicans this afternoon proclaimed tax relief is on the way. Democrats rolled out a new car and a car part to illustrate the difference between what wealthy and working folk could buy with their tax cut and declared war."
Tom Daschle, Senate Minority Leader: "We've already tried what President Bush is proposing. We did that in 1981. The rich got richer, the poor got poorer, and working families got stuck with the entire bill."
Roberts: "Lawmakers are closely watching public opinion for signals on how far to go. Margaret Carelmo (sp?) likes the Bush plan. Chuck Wolfe is looking for more than the President is willing to give."
Chuck Wolfe: "If the tax cut meant that I was going to be able to help finance a house or buy a new car or something, then it would be significant, but this way it's just, well, dinner and a movie, I suppose."
Roberts concluded: "The President wants to make the tax cut retroactive to January 1 to give the economy an even bigger boost, but Democrats say that would only inflate a plan that's already too expensive."

ABC's World News Tonight also led with Bush sending his tax cut bill to Capitol Hill. Terry Moran began by reporting how President Bush quoted JFK on the virtues of cutting taxes and how Bush "sounded his direst warning to date on the rickety state of the U.S. economy."

After noting how Bush framed his plan as primarily benefiting middle and lower class earners, Moran observed: "Within minutes of the Rose Garden event, Democratic congressional leaders were staging a stunt aimed at dramatizing their central argument against the Bush tax plan: It unfairly favors the rich."
Tom Daschle: "If you're a millionaire, under the Bush tax cut you get a $46,000 tax cut, more than enough to pay for this Lexus. But if you're a typical working person, you get $227 -- and that's enough to buy this muffler."

Moran then outlined who benefits, but unlike CBS's Roberts, he employed both raw numbers and percentages: "Who's right? It depends on how you look at the numbers. Under Bush a single person making $20,000 a year would get a $300 tax cut, that's 16 percent less than the person pays in taxes now. A married working couple, with two children, who make $60,000 a year would get a $1,600 cut which represents a 40 percent reduction from current law. And a married couple with two children making $1 million a year would get a $46,000 tax break, a 15 percent cut."
Viewers then heard from Clint Stretch, yes, that's his name, Director of Tax Policy at Deloitte & Touche, the source of Moran's examples: "Poor people do not get the same big tax cuts that high income people get under this plan. That's because they don't pay large amounts of tax."
Moran concluded: "The White House argues that it's the percentage cuts that matter, that a 40 percent tax cut can make a dramatic difference to people. The Democrats are focusing on the dollar amount, Peter, and they're emphasizing the fact that under the Bush tax plan more than half of the $1.6 trillion would go to the top ten percent of taxpayers."

But as network reporters studiously avoid informing viewers, the top ten percent of taxpayers -- those earning more than $83,000 annually -- pay 65 percent of all income taxes collected by the federal government according to IRS and Tax Foundation figures listed in the February 8 Investor's Business Daily. So if only half goes to them they will get less than their fair share.


Dan Rather bemoaned how "President Bush today again talked down the U.S. he sent Congress the big tax cut plan he says will stoke the economy up," but a couple of minutes later Rather himself reported how declining retail sales numbers demonstrate the economy is "unquestionably slowing at least some."

Rather announced at the top of Thursday's CBS Evening News: "Good evening. President Bush today again talked down the U.S. economy, and this time he did it in some of the strongest terms yet, as he sent Congress the big tax cut plan he says will stoke the economy up. Some economists worry that it's a long-term risk. Mr. Bush said his more than one-and-a-half trillion dollars in tax cuts are just right. Democrats said again the Bush cuts are mostly a boon to the rich, and they say the cuts risk squandering the nation's budget surplus. Now comes the hard part -- understanding what, if anything, all this may mean to you. CBS's John Roberts has the facts, financial and political."

Immediately following the Roberts report detailed in item #1 above, Rather stated: "With the economy unquestionably slowing at least some, it apparently took deep discounts to get shoppers into many stores last month. Even so, figures out today indicate sales at some of the biggest retailers were way down."


CBS's bias against tax cuts extends to its Web site. In a story posted earlier this week, Dick Meyer of delivered the usual liberal distortion about how Reagan's tax cuts caused the deficits as he warned the same thing could occur again with Bush's if corporate lobbyists manage to get breaks for their industries.

"A Cautionary Tax Tale: There's Danger Lurking At Gucci Gulch Lessons From The Reagan Years," read the headline over the February 6 posting. An excerpt:

The last time a Republican governor rode into Washington from the West promising to cut taxes before sun up, it caused a bloodbath of red ink that lasted for nearly 20 years. The story of the Reagan tax cuts of 1981 is a cautionary tale that Beltway business lobbyists hope is long forgotten, because they're getting ready to play old tricks on a new sheriff.

Ronald Reagan was the last president to be elected with a popular ideology so simple it fit on a button: cut taxes, shrink government, crush commies. Tax reductions for individuals were always the heart of Reaganism and a whole economic theory was created to dress up this simple, popular position. It was called supply-side economics. Some called it Reaganomics; and Mr. Reagan's running mate, George H.W. Bush, referred to it as voodoo economics.

The theory basically held that cutting taxes would stimulate the economy so powerfully that government tax revenues would increase despite the rate cuts for individuals, thereby eliminating budget deficits.

It didn't quite work out that way.

But Mr. Reagan's message was so popular in 1980 that he not only won the White House in a landslide, he also gave the Republicans control of the Senate for the first time since the 1950s. The golden rule of American politics instantly became tax cuts win elections.

That was a dangerous thing. When the politicians got to work in 1981, they tried to outdo each other on tax cuts and eventually got into a now famous bidding war to see who could sell off bigger cuts to the business lobbyists....

The Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 spawned other staples in the lexicon of lobbying, like Gucci Gulch and Christmas Tree Legislation.

The economy did get pumped up, albeit briefly; then the deficits went nuclear. Corporate and personal tax shelters proliferated. Draconian cuts in domestic spending were imposed, but still couldn't control the deficits. Taxes were hiked in 1986 and again in the 1990s. Deficits continued until the 1990s economic expansion had lasted six or seven years.

Now it's 2001 and the same lobbyists are hatching the same schemes. The big-ticket item this year is again a way to write off business purchases faster, but this time focused on high-tech. The sharks smell the blood in the water....

END Excerpt

To read the entire liberal diatribe, go to:,1597,269819-412,00.shtml

In fact, tax revenue grew in the 1980s faster than inflation and there were never any "draconian cuts." As Ed Rubenstein outlined in National Review's 1994 book, The Right Data: "Since 1980, aggregate federal tax revenues have grown 111 percent. Had revenues grown at the rate of inflation, the government would have collected $225 billion fewer dollars in 1992. Congress spent the additional money, and the some."


NBC's Today found a man who doesn't want a tax cut as he declared: "I do not feel that the President's program is good for the country." He wants more money spent on new transfer programs, such as for prescription drugs. Not surprisingly, he and his wife are retired federal workers.

The couple were the third set of taxpayers whose situation was analyzed by Joanne Johnson of JP Morgan. On Thursday's Today, MRC analyst Geoffrey Dickens observed, she and Matt Lauer first talked with a skeptical woman. Lauer asked her: "Have you taken the time to look at this tax cut plan?" She replied: "Not necessarily. Uhh, simply because I don't think it's going to affect me that much." But Johnson informed her that with her $57,000 annual income, "we project that your first year annual savings will be about $516. And over five years that savings goes to about $1,000 a year. And as we spoke remember what I said? You can take that $1000, put it into an IRA for your benefit. By the time your 65 years old you'll have about $480,000 in that IRA."
Lauer: "Not too bad, huh? You could get behind a program like that?"
The woman was converted: "I think I could deal with that."

Next, Lauer and Johnson spoke in studio with parents with two kids who were pleased about the proposed hike in the child credit.

Finally, Lauer arrived at the complainers: "Manford and Constance Segal nice to see you both. Tell me a little bit about yourselves."
Manford Segal: "We're retired for 10 years."
Lauer: "What did you do for a living?"
Manford Segal: "I worked for, as a manager for the Social Security Administration."
Lauer: "Okay and Constance did you work?"
Constance Segal: "Yes I was working full time and I was administrative assistant to the chief of staff of a VA hospital."
Lauer: "Okay are taxes a big concern for both of you?"
Segal: "Taxes are a concern. Any outgo of money is a concern. However I do not feel that the President's program is good for the country."
Lauer: "Tell me why."
Manford Segal: "Because first of all we still have a $3.6 trillion, not deficit but a-"
Lauer: "Debt."
Manford Segal: "A debt. And this program of the tax cut will not allow that to be paid back. The President's father while he was in office for the four years added one trillion dollars to our debt and I think George W. should be paying his father's debt down."
Lauer caught him: "Manfred are you Democrat or Republican?"
Segal: "Uhh, I'm an independent."
Lauer: "Okay, yeah. And a man who speaks his mind. We crunched the numbers. Now you are living on a fixed income, that's safe to say? Social Security and some benefits from IRAs?"
Constance Segal: "Practically nothing because we weren't really allowed to put that much money into our IRA's. It was controlled."
Lauer: "Okay."
Manford Segal: "And, and the Social Security is, is next to nothing because of the federal laws that were passed that took away half of our Social Security."
Lauer: "You're gonna have some convincing to do here Joanne, right? Let's see. Let's hear the numbers."
Johnson: "I think that's right. You know on a fixed income, living on a fixed income is always very difficult and when we spoke yesterday Manny you said you had about a $56,000 income per year to live on. With these new tax cuts you will see in year one a saving of about $600. And over five years it's gonna be about $850. What's interesting, that you told me yesterday, that you give money to charity. You give about $600 a year to charity. You're probably doing that with money you are already paying taxes on. The new tax proposal allows you to take tax free withdrawals from your IRA and make that gift to charity."
Manford Segal: "I would rather not forgo that deterring from the federal government because we have more important things to do with that money. And that is to have prescription drug coverage-"
Lauer: "Alright, just ten seconds left."
Manford Segal: "Prescription drug coverage, Social Security to guarantee and Medicare to preserve it."
Lauer wrapped up: "Alright Manny thank you very much. We're gonna get Manny down to Washington to meet with the President. There's some, no question about that. Thank you all very much for being here we appreciate it."

Obviously Segal's candidate for President lost so he may not get all the laws passed he wants to get more money taken from current workers to subsidize him, but there's nothing stopping him from sending his tax cut to the U.S. Treasury. The MRC's Rich Noyes found citizens can send a check, payable to the Bureau of the Public Debt. The address:
Bureau of the Public Debt
Department G
Washington, D.C. 20239-0601.


Is "controversial" a synonym for conservative? Have you noticed how network reporters often attach the term "controversial" to anything President Bush proposes with which liberals disagree? His school spending program was fine, but not his "controversial" plan for vouchers, for instance.

Recent CyberAlerts have quoted some of these descriptions, but MRC Communications Director Liz Swasey put together a collection of examples on the tax cut, vouchers and federal funding of faith-based charities -- all issues with more public support than opposition, yet all termed "controversial."

-- Tax Cut: 74 percent support, 23 percent oppose in a Gallup poll. Check:

ABC: "big and controversial tax cut" -- Terry Moran, World News Tonight, 2/3/01
CBS: "big, controversial $1.6 trillion tax cut plan" -- Mark Knoller, Saturday Early Show, 2/3/01
NBC: "launches his controversial $1.6 trillion tax-cut plan" -- Ann Curry, Today, 2/5/01
CNN: "his controversial tax cut proposal" -- Stephen Frazier, CNN Tonight, 2/4/01

-- School Vouchers: 56 percent support, 39 percent oppose. Check:

ABC: "the controversial issue of school vouchers" -- Monica Shuman, World News This Morning, 1/11/01
CBS: "contains a controversial element of choice, or vouchers" -- Bill Plante, Early Show, 1/24/01
NBC: "the controversial issue of school vouchers" -- Tom Brokaw, NBC Nightly News, 1/10/01
CNN: "school vouchers, such a controversial program" -- Bob Franken, Early Edition, 1/10/01

-- Faith-Based Charity: 42 percent support, 26 percent oppose. Check:

ABC: "controversial plan to link government services with religious groups" -- Don Dahler, World News Now, 1/29/01
CBS: "proposal for subsidizing faith-based organizations to help provide social programs and social policy. It's a very controversial subject" -- Mark Knoller, Saturday Early Show, 1/27/01
NBC: "controversial plan today. He is proposing that religious charities be given federal money" -- Ann Curry, Today, 1/30/01
CNN: "controversial plan and that is allowing religious organizations to play a larger role in dealing with some of society's biggest problems" -- Kelly Wallace, CNN Saturday, 1/27/01


ABC and NBC presented tough stories Thursday night on how both Republicans and Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee, which held a hearing Thursday on the matter, were outraged by how President Clinton pardoned fugitive Marc Rich. But CBS came to Clinton's defense without differentiating between pardons for political allies and for a fugitive. Eric Engberg argued: "Bill Clinton is far from being the first President to clean off the slate of someone in a legal jam who's got powerful political connections."

ABC's Jackie Judd opened her World News Tonight piece: "Not a single committee member, including Democrats, defended the former President's decision to pardon Marc Rich."

NBC Nightly News made the hearing its top story as anchor Brian Williams intoned: "There is no disputing a man named Marc Rich was an international fugitive financier wanted by the law here in the U.S. for years. There's also no disputing that his ex-wife has given generously to Bill Clinton over the years. So when Rich hired Clinton's ex-White House lawyer and when Clinton then pardoned Rich it was the pardon heard 'round the world. Well today the case was heard on the Hill. Congress has a lot of questions about a pardon that a lot of people say smells bad."

But on the CBS Evening News, following a story on the hearing from Bob Schieffer, Dan Rather turned to Eric Engberg for a "Reality Check." Engberg began, as transcribed by MRC analyst Brad Wilmouth, by equating Clinton's pardon of Rich with Gerald Ford's of Richard Nixon and President George H. W. Bush's of Caspar Weinberger:
"Former President Clinton's on the way out the door pardon of fugitive financier Marc Rich infuriated his foes and disturbed even his friends. How could he? Time out. Bill Clinton is far from being the first President to clean off the slate of someone in a legal jam who's got powerful political connections. Exhibit A: President Ford and Richard Nixon. Once Nixon resigned in the midst of impeachment, the prosecutors were still chasing him for Watergate crimes. His successor, Gerald Ford, ended all that with:"
Gerald Ford, 1974: "A full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon."
Engberg: "Ford claimed he only wanted to close the book on Watergate, but the uproar helped cost him the next election. The first President, George Washington, gave pardons to the leaders of the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania, after they tarred and feathered U.S. liquor tax collectors. The first President Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Weinberger just days before Bush was scheduled to testify at Weinberger's trial on charges related to the Iran-Contra caper. The Democratic finger-wagging was led by this fellow:"
Bill Clinton: "I am concerned by any action which sends a signal that if you work for the government, you're above the law."
Engberg: "Who later pardoned former Congressman Dan Rostenkowski. Harry Truman handed out wholesale pardons to crooked political cronies back home in Missouri. Money seems to count, too. New York Yankee owner George Steinbrenner, convicted of illegal campaign contributions, was pardoned by President Reagan. Wealthy industrialist Armand Hammer, nailed for his campaign gifts, was pardoned by Bush."

Engberg concluded: "The history of out the door pardons shows the best way to get one is to hire a politically connected lawyer, be rich, do political favors for big shots. Better yet, all of the above."

Yes, but until Bill Clinton you had to not be a fugitive and had to not have renounced your U.S. citizenship.

And on the NBC Nightly News Pete Williams spelled out a difference between Clinton's pardons which did not go through normal Justice Department channels and those of previous Presidents which did and of Ford's which did not but was still specific: "Gerald Ford, for example, did not consult the Justice Department when he pardoned Richard Nixon, but he was explicit about the dates and crimes the pardon covered...By contrast, legal experts say, President Clinton offered very little guidance on exactly which crimes he was pardoning for the cases that bypassed the normal review..."


Talking to CNN's Larry King, Nancy Reagan pointed out how she and her husband were very different than the Clintons in receiving gifts, though the media don't note the differences when Clinton defenders claim the Reagans did the same thing years earlier. The Reagans, for example, paid back a loan for their house, she confirmed to King in an interview aired on her husband's birthday, February 6.

The MRC's Rich Noyes caught this exchange:

Larry King: "I want you to comment on something. This broke last week. The former President Ronald Reagan, whose friends bought him the $2.5 million home in Bel Air in 1989, paid those friends back with interest after he left the White House, his chief of staff said, last week, with all the stories about gifts and the like. We had never known that."
Nancy Reagan: "Well, at the time, it was public that, I mean, our money-"
King: "Well, the gift was public, but I never knew that-"
Reagan: "That we repaid."
King: "Yeah."
Reagan: "Well, you know, some things are just left out of stories."
King: "So it was always a loan, then?"
Reagan: "Always. Always. Our money was in a blind trust, and we had to buy a house, and we didn't know how much money we had. So the friends bought it, and then we repaid them with interest."
King: "Without wanting to put any discomfort on anyone else, do you think you got a bad rap on gifts?"
Reagan: "A little bit."
King: "Well, you wrote about it in your own book. I mean, you took a lot of hits for things that are now everyday. You ever feel funny when you see things like that?"
Reagan: "A little."
King: "So it was always the intent to pay back the house, and the house-"
Reagan: "Always."
King: "-is paid back with interest."
Reagan: "With interest."
King: "I'll bet you most people thought that that was a lifetime gift."
Reagan: "They probably did. Just as most people think I bought the china."
King: "They still think that?"
Reagan: "I still read it. I still hear it. And I keep saying, 'It was donated, it was donated.'"
King: "All you did was borrow some dresses for designers, right? That which is done-"
Reagan: "All the time."

Can't think of a cute closing line. -- Brent Baker

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